It’s over 500 years since Johannes Gutenberg invented his famous printing press – something which had actually been around centuries earlier in China and Korea. Nowadays the internet is fast replacing old-fashioned books as the way to find things out.
But now Wikipedia is doing some time travel, going back a few centuries to produce a book version of the revolutionary user-edited encyclopedia. It will only be available in German for now, but if it takes off, it may well spread around the world.
But before you book-lovers get too excited, is it actually ever going to be a hit? My prediction is a definite no. Aside from the price (around $30, compared to free access for the online version), I don’t think the publishers have realized that a paper copy of Wikipedia wouldn’t actually be much use. The whole idea of Wikipedia is that it is constantly updated, and that’s what sets it apart from the traditional encyclopedias like Britannica.
Rather than going back to the past, I think it’s better to look forward to the future. It’s been interesting watching Wikipedia’s gigantic surge in popularity in recent years – for many people it is the only encyclopedia they ever use. In fact, it’s the 7th most visited site on the whole internet. It’ll be very interesting watching how Wikipedia evolves over the next few years.
Perhaps in 100 years time, our descendants will be wondering how we could ever use such archaic technology compared to what they will have. Ah, if only Wikipedia could invent a time machine that could go forward a few centuries, rather than back.